Week-long travels abroad, with accompanying courses, were introduced at Penn State Brandywine in 1996. The programs were designed with a threefold purpose:
- To broaden a student's world view and cultural horizons to meet new job market demands;
- To support the University's goal of students engaging in a significant international experience as part of their undergraduate years; and
- To accommodate students' limited financial resources and time constraints.
Brandywine Global Programs courses are scheduled during semester breaks, and students may take up to two courses, for six general education credits, usually from three or more offered. The timing and length of the excursions make them particularly convenient for non-traditional students. For traditional students, the trips provide a testing ground for Penn State's longer international education courses.
Trip organizers try to keep the costs for flight, hotel, and breakfast under $2000. There are optional excursions available at extra cost, but students can do most of their academic work using low-cost public transportation. Off-season travel keeps costs down and also provides opportunities to participate in local celebrations, such as Epiphany in Spain, with fewer tourists present than during peak travel times.
While many experiences are enhanced by familiarity with the host country's language, all courses are in English. Multilingual teachers are available to assist students. Once abroad, students usually form small groups that may function independently. Participants experience the benefits of working in a small, spontaneous learning group and discover the advantages of teamwork that accommodates individual learning styles. The environment facilitates informal student/faculty interaction; interdisciplinary faculty cooperation is encouraged.
Participants range in age from 18 to 80. Some are seasoned travelers; others are making their first trip overseas. Students from several Penn State campuses take the courses.
Faculty from various disciplines take advantage of the host country's museums and historic sites in their course offerings.
As a result of Brandywine Global Programs courses, students have changed their majors to language arts, scheduled additional foreign travel on their own, and report that the international experience on their resumes proves to be of great interest to prospective employers.